Sandinista chief holds on for a return to power

Missing Persons No. 23 Daniel Ortega

I last saw Daniel Ortega in February 1990. In fact, that is when most of the world last saw him. He was riding into Managua's Revolution Square atop the "Danimobile," a converted lorry, on the closing night of his re-election campaign.

Gone were the thick-rimmed glasses, the unruly hair, the Castro-style olive uniform. He was wearing blue jeans, cowboy boots and a Paisley-pattern designer shirt with the sleeves rolled high, Springsteen-style, to display his biceps. As the lorry's speakers blared out his theme song to a rock backing - "here comes Daniel, Daniel Orte-e-ga" - he emulated "the Boss" by punching the air. The crowd, as they say, went wild.

It seemed like the whole of Nicaragua was there, crammed into the square, plus scores of foreign celebrities who supported Mr Ortega's Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN). There was the singer Jackson Browne, Ed Asner (television's Lou Grant) and Managua-born Bianca Jagger snapping photographs. Mr Ortega was a star. He was on a roll. He couldn't lose.

He did. A white-haired widow called Violeta Chamorro, heading a conservative 14-party coalition calling itself the United National Opposition, easily defeated Mr Ortega to take the presidency. After half a century of dictatorship and a decade of Marxism, Nicaraguans had learned how to disguise their views. Many at Mr Ortega's rally, it seems, had just turned out for the rum and reggae.

He may not have been much in the world news since that day, but Mr Ortega is still a towering figure on the domestic scene. He remains general- secretary of the FSLN, the strongest single party in Nicaragua's fragmented spectrum. A small heart attack last year did not slow him down. Following treatment in Cuba, Mr Ortega returned as undisputed FSLN leader.

His former vice-president, Sergio Ramirez, publicly split with him last year to set up the Sandinista Renovation Movement but that party is largely made up of intellectuals and artists. It is not yet seen as having the street support it would need for electoral success next year, although it is growing.

Mr Ortega also suffered a setback when his former culture minister, the Catholic priest and poet Ernesto Cardenal, quit the FSLN last year, accusing Mr Ortega of "assassinating" the Sandinista movement and comparing his popularity to that of "Hitler, Franco or Reagan".

Mr Ortega lives with his wife, Rosario Murillo, and children in the same unpretentious house in Managua's Carmen district where he has lived since the revolution, even as President. He rarely attends parliament but can occasionally be seen in a Jeep with the odd bodyguard.

Long gone are the heavily-armed Cuban army bodyguards who used to protect him. Fidel Castro, who had warned Mr Ortega against holding free elections, pulled them out within days of his 1990 election defeat.

Mr Ortega's opponents say he is "obsessed" with returning to power. They cite that obsession as the reason he turned himself into a thorn in Mrs Chamorro's flesh, using his grass-roots support to stage violent strikes.

Under a recently-reformed constitution, Mrs Chamorro cannot run in presidential elections in November next year, but, with a one-term gap, Mr Ortega can. With Mrs Chamorrocriticised for failing to reunite the country, for economic recession and for alleged official corruption, the Sandinistas will still be a factor then.


world cup 2014A history of the third-place play-offs
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

The Mexico chief finally lets rip as his emotions get the better of him
world cup 2014
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Yaya Touré has defended his posturing over his future at Manchester City
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
Life and Style
There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows, Network Security)

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice